Christmas and a mild illness has taken its toll on my planned blogging these past few days, but I will try to catch up over the next few days.
Few people who have met Gilbert have not been impacted by him somehow. He has extraordinary talents in so many artistic ways that you would be hard pressed to say he was a product of the ghetto, which, like all our urban members, he is.
Gilbert can dance, he can sing, he can paint, he can do crafts, he can act, he can present, he can make films, he can write plays and, sometimes, he can write too.
The quote above came from Bruno Ruganzu, an esteemed professional artist, who we have worked with at the Chrysalis Centre this past year. Bruno founded a Ugandan organisation known as EcoArt recently and he has been the winner of many prizes for his art and photography. He sees the potential with Gilbert, that we saw, when he painted for the first time back in 2009. Gilbert’s artistic judgement is very strong and these past two years he has evolved his techniques, so that he can paint, use oil pastels, oils and even charcoal.
Sometimes art can be an introspective even selfish thing, but Gilbert has shown he is prepared to use his talent to build on the skills of others, as he led the Bayimba Arts Festival project this year, which included children from 11-18. You can see some of the art produced for this project here.
During the project Gilbert has shown more than anyone his ability to liaise with adults on an equal basis. He’s demonstrated that by training our youth effectively, we can produce trustworthy, motivated social entrepreneurs, working on small projects right now, but with the drive to work on large projects, as they develop. Gilbert was born in a Kampala slum and he knows as much as anyone about the negative aspects of
slum living. As a result, he is able to make good judgements on projects in slum districts, much more than those of us who have not been exposed to slum living. He demonstrated this through evolving a new system for contacting children on the project, bearing in mind that few have mobile phones to contact and those that do often have them stolen. He also has the respect of other children on the project, though sometimes begrudging due to his undoubted ability.
One of the projects that most impressed me from Gilbert is his film “We need your attention”. It’s a very simple message, which is perhaps
more important than any “Children’s Rights” pamphlets, as he simply says “Don’t neglect us, we are important” and he portrays the story of a boy, who becomes upset because his father gives him no time. Gilbert has used music beautifully in the 5 minute film, using a mixture of indigenous and Western Classical music. We don’t have the film yet on-line, but perhaps that will come soon. Gilbert filmed it with a £30 video camera, which was constantly running out of batteries and he learnt how to use Windows Movie Maker on his own, for the editing process.
Lastly, for now, Gilbert has always demonstrated the importance of giving artistic stimulation. Without this, he would be stepping outside the staple of Ugandan music. He would not be interested in viewing a whole range of creative films that we show, from Narnia to The Nightmare Before Christmas. One of the most obvious influences was “Star Wars” and then we watched “The Fifth Element” and Gilbert produced the oil pastel picture you can see below. For more of his 2010 art, go here.
So, art, music, films all inspire, so why do we not campaign for its use more widely in Africa, as we need inspiration to create positive change? Gilbert is one of those that we can entrust Uganda’s artistic future to and if you would like to help him, then please write to this email.